I decided to use natural undyed Mocha for the main body of the sweater but wasn’t sure what to use for the contrast slip stitches on the yoke. The undyed natural White seemed like the obvious option but I felt it might be a little more stark than I was aiming for. I did a little experimenting with alder cones and cutch, and tried both alum mordant and not and modifying with iron afterwards or not. I loved all the results but felt that alder cones and cutch modified with iron (and not mordanted) gave the effect I was looking for. Clare came up with the name Toasted Coconut for this new colourway which I think is perfect.
As usual Clare knit quickly and checked any queries as she went along. I went for the straight version of the design but lengthened the body a little to suit my long torso. Clare felt the sleeves looked quite tight at the point of picking up stitches so she picked up the number required for a Size Four (the body is knit to Size Three). The whole sweater used 395 grams, most of four skeins of Mocha plus part of a skein of Toasted Coconut. I absolutely love the finished sweater. It is easy to wear, comfortable and flattering.
I don’t think Elizabeth has the design available to buy on her website at the moment but copies are available from Ravelry here, or if you would like a copy but can’t use Ravelry let me know and I will help out. Clare’s Ravelry project notes are here.
Rie and I first made contact with each other through a US based yarn shop, and were paired up for a project which was due to launch late 2020. Sadly that particular three-way collaboration fell foul of coronavirus but Rie and I decided to continue working together.
We agreed that Rie would use Auchen, my sport weight woollen spun yarn, which at the time was newly released. We had some to and fro discussions to decide what sort of colour I should dye and settled on a soft madder shade. We also considered what the theme of our work should be and felt that Crossing Borders seemed to sum it up. Originally we were working as three women in three different countries each with their own strengths and challenges, and Crossing Borders felt like the way we wanted to approach the world. I did some trial dyeing on Auchen and Rie and I picked a beautiful shade dyed with madder and cutch which I have named Crossing Borders. I then sent two skeins off to Rie to work her design magic.
Rie is a wonderfully talented designer with quite a distinct quiet but beautiful aesthetic and I was excited to see her design in Auchen develop. The design is everything I could have hoped for, a delicate but cosy shawl designed to drape and keep you warm. The main body of the shawl is a pretty shell lace and the deep border is a simple ribbon eyelet. The shawl can be folded where the triangular lace section changes to the eyelet border and doing so helps the design sit well across your shoulders. Bothe sides of the design are wearable.
Once Rie had almost finished the design we considered what the shawl should be named and Rie suggested ‘Asahi’ which is the Japanese name for the Crossing Borders colour. Rie’s shawl pattern is available on Ravelry here, I don’t think it is available anywhere else but if you can’t access Ravelry please let me know and I will help out. I knit my version of Asahi in Harvest Gold which is dyed with fustic, quebracho red and rhubarb root. The Ravelry notes for the project are here.
I have now been wearing my Timely Cardigan for over a year and I still love it. With the beginning of June Scotland has suddenly decided to warm up at last and I’ll be wearing my Timely even more over the summer months – I find it is perfect over summer skirts and shorts, paired with a tshirt or vest top.
I knit my Timely in BFL Suri 4ply, which is a lovely soft drapey yarn which has worked very well for this little cardigan. I used just over two skeins of the natural undyed Silver as the main colour. For the contrast stripe I chose Culloden (which is a lovely tonal pink-red shade, dyed with Lac and Hibiscus, and works really well with Timely’s stripes) and needed just over one skein. I knit Size Three which has a finished bust of 32.5″ giving me around 2″ negative ease. I lengthened the body slightly to better fit my long torso but otherwise made no modifications.
I’m currently knitting a second Timely, with undyed Cream as the main colour and Dragon as the contrast (dyed with fustic and indigo, a dark tonal indigo with flashes of green and orange). I don’t plan to make any changes to the pattern other than lengthening the body again.
I would thoroughly recommend this design by Libby Jonson of Truly Myrtle. You can find my Ravelry notes here, and the pattern can be found on Ravelry or Libby’s website.
I had the crazy idea of knitting myself a new sweater in the run-up to last autumn’s busy show season (Perth Festival of Yarn, Yarndale and Loch Ness Knit Fest all came in quick succession). Unsurprisingly I didn’t manage to finish my Newleaf Sweater quite in time but it was actually a pretty quick knit and I thoroughly enjoyed the odd moment of knitting between lots of dyeing.
Newleaf Sweater is a design by Jennifer Steingass. Jenn has published a lot of patterns recently but this is the first I have knit – I really enjoyed it and found it a well written pattern. Initially I had some difficulty with the colour-work as my floats were a bit tight. I commented on instagram and had a lot of very helpful comments. I tried knitting the colour-work inside out as a first step and, since that worked well for me, I didn’t try any of the other suggestions…….but it is good to know there are other options if I have problems in the future.
I knit my sweater in Coulmore 4ply, I knew it would be one I’d wear a lot and the hard wearing, and light, properties of Coulmore 4ply would be perfect. The main colour is the undyed grey from my latest batch and the contrast is a dark grey-blue (naturally dyed of course). I think it would also work well with a dyed shade as the main colour and undyed for the colour-work contrast.
I debated whether to go for the long sleeve or short sleeve version. Eventually I decided on short sleeves, which was definitely the right option for the way I’m wearing it – over long sleeve tops, all day most days! It is great for working in, I can dye without having sleeves in the way. I’m keen to knit more sweaters with short sleeves (though I’m not sure it would work so well in heavier weight yarns).
I knit the second size and used 3 skeins of the main colour and 1 of the contrast.
Annie Rowden’sWinter Hoodie is one of my favourite children’s knits. My mum has knit 5 or 6 of these over the years, all sized a little big so that they can be worn for several years. She recently knit one for her youngest grandchild (and my littlest nephew) in BIY Shetland DK. And I’m very happy to report that he seems to be enjoying wearing it – though catching him still enough to photgraph is quite a challenge!
The hoodie is knit with Natural Fawn as the main colour and Natural White as the contrast.
I’m so pleased that Shetland DK is soft enough to be used as yarn for baby and child knits and that it works so well for colourwork. I’d really quite like one of these for myself.
The cardigan is knit in Coulmore DK and works perfectly for this simple cardigan with beautiful details. To quote from Laine: ‘ If we had to choose just one cardigan to wear for the rest of our lives, it would be this one. Fake shoulder seams make a lovely small detail and the collar can be worn folded or unfolded. Knitting this cardigan is like going on an exciting adventure with a friend ending with a trip to a local button shop – or you do it like Joji and finish your knitwear with buttons that used to be your grandpa‘s. ‘
Unfortunately my buttons aren’t ones that used to be my grandad’s (isn’t that special?) but are lovely wooden ones that mum bought in South Africa – I always think that mum is very good at picking the right buttons to finish off a project.
The sample uses Coulmore dyed with tea leaves, and I love the neutral colour for this simple design. It is knit in size medum and used five 100g skeins. I have been wearing mine for almost 2 years now (a bit of a blogging delay!) and even with very regular use it shows little signs of wear, and almost no pilling. I’d thoroughly recommend the pattern and yarn combination. Coulmore DK works very well for knits that you want to wear regularly. It isn’t the most sophisticated yarn but it is hard wearing and (for me) comfortable next to the skin…………plus the wool comes from one farm here on the Black Isle which supports three generations of the same family, and that in itself is very special. You can read more about Coulmore here.
Once again my lovely mum has been helping me out with some sample knitting – and once again, I’m wearing the so-called sample all the time! St Catherines is a superb design by Kate Davies, who says that it is a ‘shrug-style garter stitch cardigan, with dolman sleeves and short-row shaping‘. Mum knit my version in BIY Bluefaced Leicester 4ply, I love it in this soft, slightly squishy and drapey yarn and find it very wearable – comfortable and flattering. It would also work very well in Bluefaced Leicester Suri Blend 4ply, the addition of the Suri Alpaca in this blend would add even more drape and work very effectively with the deisgn.
The cardigan used 3 skeins of BFL 4ply to knit the 2nd size (with longer sleeves) and is knit in Seaweed. Seaweed is naturally dyed (as always) with locally collected bramble leaves and indigo. I loves the colour tones I achieve when dyeing with bramble leaves (Rockpool is also dyed with bramble leaves, with more indigo for a deeper shade, and has a similar tonal effect). If you look in the Ravelry gallery here you’ll see you can also knit St Catherines as a striped cardigan, I love it this way too.
I’ve had the Puzzlewood Mittens pattern on my to-make list since it was first published a couple of years ago. The original design, by Ruth Werwai, was published in the lovely book WOODS, by the Making Stories team. I love that they feature local sustainable yarns – and, in fact, Black Isle Yarns are the original yarns used in the Puzzlewood Mittens design.
I no longer produce one of the original yarns so I decided to knit my pair with two skeins of Gotland DK (one of the two original yarns). I have been testing the colour-fastness of yarn dyed with Safflower and used a sunshiny yellow Safflower skein combined with a soft beige dyed with oak bark. The pattern is a straightforward and satisfying knit. I knit size 2 although I would have been better with size 1. Since taking the photos I have machine washed the mitts to slightly shrink and felt them! With two 100g skeins you could knit two pairs of these mittens, reversing the colour dominance for the second pair.
I’d definitely recommend this pattern as a quick and simple knit.
I thought that I’d talk a bit about how I work and the steps involved in BIY from field to skein – so that if you ever pick up a skein you know just what has gone into it.
The first stage is to make contact and build a relationship with a farm or smallholding that has a sheep breed I am interested in, and whose land managament and animal welfare meets a high standard. I’m now working with around 12 local farms and have found them in a variety of ways. My very first contact (in late 2015 in advance of summer 2016’s clip) was Fearniewell Croft, a local smallholding which operates mostly as an organic veg grower – and since I buy my delicious veg box from Dan and Rachel it made sense to contact them and ask if they would be interested in me buying fleeces from their small Gotland(ish) flock. The next fleeces came from Jim and Linda’s Hedgefield Zwartbles – Jim had done some work with my husband, and Jim and I then realised we had been forestry colleagues in Aberdeenshire in the 1990s. Since then contacts have been made through active searching (such as finding Meadows Flock for my first Shetland fleeces) and word of mouth, with farmers contacting me to see if I’d be interested in buying their wool. Perhaps my favourite find is Coulmore – my friend Emily bumped into this special organic cheviot flock when she was out on a bike ride!
Over the next few weeks I’ll be contacting each of the farms to get a feel for when they’re likely to be clipping and I’ll then maintain contact until shearing actually happens – in an ideal world I’d visit on shearing day but this often turns out to be quite tricky. Clipping dates are often decided at the last moment, worked around weather and other farm and work duties, and as I have to work around my family and access to our car it often isn’t possible to visit until afterwards.
When I visit each farm I’ll have in mind the numbers and colours (if theyr’e Shetland) of fleeces I’m aiming to select. But if there’s lots of great quality that number tends to slip upwards, and likewise I won’t buy fleeces which aren’t good enough quality. I tend to do a bit of skirting at that stage – I can’t help pulling off daggy and coarse bits as I’m handling a fleece (ingrained, I think, from rolling fleeces as a child!) – but each fleece will be properly skirted back at home. Ideally I’ll do it the same day but often I don’t manage and then I’ll have a mammoth sorting session and clean-up several lots at once. Once they’re skirted I’ll weigh the fleeces so that I have a running total of each breed and colour. I really ought to build myself a sorting table, at the moment I crawl around on the ground in our back garden, or occasionally at the front – which I suspect must bemuse (and amuse) some of my neighbours! Discarded fleece goes around my soft fruit as a mulch and fertiliser, and any excess goes off to a local orchard for a similar end use.
Having selected, bought and sorted each batch of fleeces they’ll head off to the mill. Fleeces that go to The Border Mill will have a pre-booked slot (I have several booked per year) and I’ll take a car-load of fleece when I go to visit family in East Lothian, which is just a short drive from Duns where TBM is based. To date the other mill I have used is The Natural Fibre Company in Cornwall so it is more efficient environmentally for fleeces to be sent to them by courier service. I work closely with the mills to work out a spin plan for each batch – I’ll have my own thoughts but it is always good to make the most of their expertise and advice.
The spun yarn comes back to me on cones and the first step is to skein the yarn – I place the cone on electronic scales while I hand wind onto my skein winder. I’m much faster now than I was initially but it is still time consuming! At this stage an undyed skein just needs the appropriate label filling in from my online template, then printing off, cutting to size and attaching round the twisted skein. I always include the sheep breed, farm(s) the fleece came from, and clipping year – as well as m/100g – on the label.
After winding, a dyed skein goes through several stages. The first step is to thoroughly scour the skeins to clean them. I’ll scour several at a time by bringing them up to 70-80 degrees for an hour or so in tap water with a little pH netural dishwashing soap. If they’re to be dyed with indigo or a dye material which is ‘substantive’ (i.e. a dye that is applied directly without a mordant) they’re now ready to be dyed after being rinsed. As an example I don’t mordant if I’m dyeing with gallnut. Often though the next step is to mordant the skeins (with a naturally occuring salt – ‘alum’ or potassium aluminium sulphate dodecahydrate) which helps fix the dye to the fibre and increases light, water and wash fastness.
I like to collect as much dye material locally as I can and this includes bramble leaves, heather tops, fallen tree lichen, alder cones and beech mast (and this year I want to try hawthorn twigs and leaves amongst others). Unfortunately though I’d struggle to get a good range of colour without the addition of bought dye material which I buy from respected traceable sources. The exact dye process varies dependent on the dye material but usually involves heat and then soaking for at least several hours. Often I’ll overdye to create more complex shades or add more than one dye material at a time – and if I’m experimanting I’ll keep adding until I’m happy (or otherwise!) with the shade I have achieved.
The final step, after several rinses and air drying, is to twist and label each skein………although for a 4 ply yarn I will reskein each of the skeins, once they are dry, before twisting and labelling. This is my least favourite step as it is time consuming and fiddly, but I find that 4ply can get quite tangled during dyeing and I’d much rather it got to you without any tangles.
For yarn that I list online there’s a a final few steps – photographing, editing (to ensure the colour is accurate) and listing each shade and yarn into the shop database.
And there you have it! I hope that was an interesting insight into what I get up to and what makes each skein of BIY. If you have any questions please do ask.
I had a custom order before Christmas for a yarn set to knit the Indigo Sea Shawl by Carrie Bostick Hoge – it is a lovely shawl which uses 50g each of three shades of 4ply. I dyed the set in heathery shades on Bluefaced Leicester Suri Alpaca 4 ply, over the Natural Silver shade (naturally dyed with logwood, lac and iron). While I was dyeing the order I created another 3 x 50g set (165m/50g x 3 = 495m/150m) and several 5 x 50g sets (165m/50g x 5 = 825m/250g) which fully exhausted the dye bath.
The three shade set would make a lovely Indigo Sea Shawl as per the original custom order, and there will be many other options I’m sure. For the five shade sets I had a quick search on Ravelry and found some really stunning designs that I think would work well (this is just a tiny snippet, have a look here for more ideas) ……..
Designs, clockwise from top left – Winterlight by Meg Gadsbey, Miso by Ambah O’Brien, Indigo Sea Shawl by Carrie Bostick Hoge, Honey Honey Honey by Lisa Hannan, ADVENTurer Scarf & Wrap by Ambah O’Brien, Bark Lines by Joji Locatelli and Colourblind by Jana Huck (all design photos by designer)